Sunday, July 27, 2008

Interview By Project Eyeball

A Dose of Music

by Edwin Lim

Project Eyeball, July 2000

He treats children by day and writes musicals by night. He has coauthored 11 books on childcare, first-aid and even cartoons. His genuine interest in helping others earned him the Community Chest's Special Volunteer Award in 1990 and the Public Service Medal (PBM) three years ago. Meet Dr. Kenneth Lyen, paediatrician, author and accomplished musical producer. Eyeball reporter Edwin Lim caught up with Dr. Lyen at his children's clinic in Mount Elizabeth Hospital to find out more about the man behind the inspiring public figure.

From treating ill babies to writing books and producing musicals, Dr. Kenneth Lyen, otherwise known as Ken, has been there and done it all. The shy Ken, who declined to reveal his age (but says he's 'forever young'), is an established child specialist who greets about 20 children a day at his Mount Elizabeth Hospital clinic.

His love for children led him to embrace a career in paediatrics. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree in Physiology, and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Oxford University, Ken went on to work at children's hospitals in London and Philadelphia. He was a senior lecturer and consultant at the National University Hospital, before taking up his current position as consultant paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Ken is passionate about his work and it shows when he speaks with much enthusiasm, about being a kid doctor. “I love working with kids. Kids are always great--they keep me young. That's why I enjoy the work I do,” he laughed.

On a more serious note, he added, “It's also very challenging because kids sometimes don't tell you everything. Whether it's a headache or a pain, I have to work things out indirectly. It's a far greater challenge diagnosing and treating kids.”

When he's not tending to his patients, Ken spends much of his time pursuing his interest in an entirely different field altogether--musical productions. His passion for drama, which started during his schooldays in the UK, underwent a revival about 10 years ago, and has since resulted in several successful musical productions.

Since 1995, Ken has initiated and produced musicals such as Big Bang!, Orchard Square, Catch The Rainbow, Yum Sing! and Temptations. His latest, The Magic Paintbrush, was staged at the Drama Centre in May 2000.

He wrote the music for The Magic Paintbrush, a children's story adapted from the Chinese folklore of a young boy Ma Liang and a magic paintbrush that enables what he paints to come to life. Ken relished every moment that he and his colleagues put into that production.

"It's more fun I guess, to write for kids and to see them in the audience."

"'They're such an appreciative audience and they're so much fun to write for, " he laughed.

The rewards of his 'second' career may be fulfilling, but they haven't come without any hard work from Ken and the rest of the stage crew. Because of his heavy workload and family commitments, he is only able to work on his productions late at night.

"One has to be very disciplined," he said, of juggling between writing his musicals and keeping his medical practice in order.

“The only time I can write is when my family is fast asleep, so I usually don't start till midnight and I don't finish till three or four a.m.,” he said.

Although he has so far been involved only in production work and writing music, Ken dabbles in script writing as well. He wrote the script for Yum Sing! last year and for that, nabbed the first prize in the United Television (UTV) International Screenplay Writing Competition.

As if his professional and musical commitments are not enough to keep him busy, Ken still finds time to do his bit for charity. In 1986, he was invited by the late Dr. Ee Peng Liang, then the President of the Community Chest of Singapore, to chair the committee that established the Margaret Drive Special School and the Balestier Special School, both of which cater for young disabled, handicapped and autistic children. His efforts were recognised when he was given the Community Chest Special Volunteer Award in 1990, and the Public Service Medal in 1997.

Kenneth though, is modest about his achievements. ''I felt very honoured but it's teamwork. I always feel I'm one of many people who together work toward the common goal, so although I got the award, I think it's actually shared between many people.''

Ken's modesty belies the real person that he is. In our hour-long interview, his magnanimity shone through and after speaking with him, it became evident that his love and enthusiasm for children, drama and volunteer work keep him going.

So what more can we expect from a man who has already given so much? Another musical of course. Ken is presently working on his next musical slated for 2001 called Sayang. It will be staged in May 2001.

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